Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Discipline of Fasting

“’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, 
‘return to me with all your heart, and with fasting, 
weeping and mourning; and rend your heart 
and not your garments.’  
Now return to the Lord your God, 
for He is gracious and compassionate, 
slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness 
and relenting of evil.” 
Joel 2:12, 13

Fasting . . . not so popular . . . not a command, perhaps—but is it a choice?

“Whenever you are fasting . . . .” Matthew 6:16
“Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?” Isaiah 58:3-5
“A time of fasting before the Lord was proclaimed.” Jeremiah 36:9
“The time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.” Mark 2:20
“(Anna) worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” Luke 2:37
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting . . .” Acts 13:2
“With prayer and fasting, committed (elders) to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Acts 14:23

And unlike Jesus . . . I miss the food right away! J

“And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.”  Matthew 4:2

Today is day 21 of our all-church 21-day fast.  I had meant to write more during this time about fasting, but—to be honest—I’ve found this one to be hard.  I do a Dawn to Dusk fast one day a week.  This was my third Daniel Fast (a diet free of all chemicals and processed foods, sugars and leavened breads, caffeine and animal products—including dairy).  But while many in our congregation reported breakthroughs and a closer sense of the Holy Spirit, I noticed frustration and an inability to hear from the Lord as clearly as I normally do. 

Not that reward is why we are to be fasting!  Other than the reward to be drawn closer, to become more like the image of the Son.  But I struggled with restlessness and sleep issues, as well as a struggle for extra prayer time and focus during that time.  I think it’s important to be upfront about that.  Results are not always immediate during a fast.  Sometimes they come after.  And sometimes the breakthroughs are sins He reveals to us and not blessings in areas of prayer.  Both are good—We just tend to prefer the latter to the former!

I will be writing more in the future about fasting.  But just as I sat down to begin this post, I received an email from our Pastor and thought his words on the subject were much better than my own.  I offer them now to you as you consider the Christian discipline of fasting.
I want to encourage you with some reminders as we finish well. 
First, keep remembering that fasting is not primarily about depriving yourself of something.  It is primarily about intentionally seeking God’s heart.  It’s about setting extra time aside for prayer, for meditation on God’s truths in the Bible.
Second, fasting can bring to the surface attitudes and struggles that have been hidden.  This is important to pay attention to.  God may reveal fear, anxiety, greed, anger or impurity.  What a wonderful blessing to be able to see any of these things more clearly and to find freedom in confession and repentance.  As our hearts are more sensitive to him, he will deepen our purity. 
Third, fasting often leads to a greater sensitivity to the needs of others.  We begin to actually possess God’s heart in a great measure.  We find ourselves seeing outside and beyond ourselves to others.  We begin to care more.  Fasting helps us begin to set ourselves aside more decisively so that energy can be given to loving others in creative and practical ways.  
Finally, I encourage you to integrate the truths about stewardship into your life.  Giving, tithing, generosity . . . are all a part of what is means to be growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Fasting is a way of decisively moving against the culture of consumerism and pursuing a culture of generosity.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  
~Pastor David Rodes~

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